A little monthly reading group to which we’ve belonged for . . . oh, something on the order of twenty-five years met last night to discuss Fiona Givens and Terryl Givens, The Christ Who Heals: How God Restored the Truth that Saves Us. Here’s one point from the book that I very much appreciated:
A popular tweet reads, “‘Do to others what you would want them to do to you’ is a good rule, but treating people how they themselves want to be treated is better.” That sounds reasonable enough, and one wonders why the Golden Rule wasn’t framed that way to begin with. After all, shouldn’t the act of kindness depend on the other person’s perception of his or her needs or desires? Actually, not necessarily. That would be true if we all knew what actions and conditions were necessary to our happiness, most conducive to our thriving.
That may seem silly or presumptuous. Silly, because of course I know what makes me happy. And presumptuous, because I certainly don’t want you thinking your opinion of what I need is more important than my opinion of what I need. But it is in fact neither silly nor presumptuous to doubt your own opinion about what will make you happy. We are capable of phenomenal feats of rationalization and self-deception. That is why Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote that what matters is not the question, “do we feel happiness?” but rather “is the objective situation such that we have reason to be happy?” That sounds rather coldhearted and analytical. However, we all, at times, brush up against the fact that we are not always terribly good judges of what makes for our own flourishing — and that is what Hildebrand is suggesting.